Botswana: Children Under Siege - First Lady

Kasane — Children nowadays have complex challenges that call for all stakeholders' collaboration to help address the challenges, First Lady Ms Neo Masisi has said.

Speaking at a dialogue session with Chobe District children on issues of violence against children in Kasane on September 13, Ms Masisi noted that technology, which was supposed to make life easier for children, had made it even more difficult as they were exposed to cyberbullying, heightened peer pressure and the dilution of custom.

She said Kasane was a unique place with its own challenges because it was where the four countries meet in one place, thereby making children more vulnerable.

She said it was disturbing that in some instances some adolescent girls dropped out of school and engaged in sex work.

She said government was committed to the protection of children from all forms of abuse. Ms Masisi, therefore, urged the students to form and join clubs that could provide a platform for experts to share with them relevant information.

The First Lady also reminded the children to have Botho, a value that she said set mutual respect between the old and the young.

The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Mr Ngaka Ngaka said government could not separate development from ensuring the protection of children's rights because they were the future custodians and builders of the country's economy.

He emphasised the need to guide and mould them into responsible future citizens. In reference to last year's GBV statistics, he indicated that one in three women was abused, adding that the ministry decided to go around the country to establish ways of fighting abuse.

He said abuse affected a child's character, the way they interacted with others while other abused children end up becoming abusers.

Mr Ngaka said government found it fit to engage children in issues of abuse in order to build a future society free from abuse. He urged children to abstain from all evil as stated in the Bible.

Earlier on, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Ms Kebonye Moepong said the dialogue with Chobe children was a turning point as it would accelerate collective efforts towards addressing challenges that affected children for the good socio-economic development of the country.

Ms Moepeng said the government was committed to continuously monitoring the environment and ensure that it was gender-sensitive and responsive.

In her welcome remarks, basic education regional operations director, Ms Lillian Matshameko noted that Chobe District was concerned with issues such as sex work and gender-based violence.

Ms Matshameko said data from various schools reflected serious repercussions on academic performance due to delinquent behaviours such as truancy, desertion, pregnancy and cases of indiscipline such as bullying, vandalism and fighting, leading to dropouts.

She cited that five cases of truancy, 15 of desertion, five of pregnancy and 31 of dropouts were recorded in the district.

Ms Matshameko observed that most of the problems that affected students emanated from issues of child negligence by parents and the lack of more pronounced mentor to always motivate and encourage learners to persevere.

A Chobe junior secondary school pupil, Natasha Rungwane noted that the challenges faced by students included parental negligence, sexual abuse, peer pressure and abuse from parents.

The 14-year-old explained that five Form Three girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy, adding that in one situation a student died because of labour complications as her body was not ready.

Rungwane said most parents in Chobe worked in the safaris and this gave the girls an advantage to invite boys at their homes for sex.

Onkemetse Moenga of the Kachikau Special Unit called on all stakeholders to ensure that the society was educated on how to treat and care for people with disabilities.

Proposing a vote of thanks, the Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Machana Shamukuni assured the students that their concerns would be addressed.

He noted that government was committed to ensuring the children realised their dreams, hence the adoption of the Children's Act.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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